Why Food Sensitivity Tests for IBS are Misleading
So many IBSers become fed-up when doctor visits, tests, and medications are unable to provide them with helpful answers to their symptoms.
If I can guess, you probably have symptoms like unpredictable or uncomfortable bowel
movements, bloating, cramping, indigestion, nausea, and even fatigue, anxiety, poor sleep, or body aches.
It might be difficult to pinpoint your problem foods, and that might have taken you on a wild goose chase trying to figure out what is causing you to feel this way. Maybe you’ve tried elimination diets like the Low FODMAP diet (check out this post on that here), a paleo-style diet, gluten-free, dairy-free, even Whole 30. Maybe you’ve tried different supplements…enzymes or probiotics, magnesium, or fiber. You might have even tried medications that might not have helped much.
Have you tried food sensitivity testing? If so, I’ll guess that you’re still left behind with most (if not all) of your symptoms, and you may be wondering why—then you’re in the perfect place! If not, you’re still in the perfect place so you can make an educated decision on the next steps for you.
The problem is, there are a lot of food sensitivity tests out there and sadly, they’re mostly inaccurate.
Even if you’re on a tight budget, I would not recommend these following tests:
These are often low in cost, but they very rarely lead to meaningful health improvements.
Let’s talk about tests like Everlywell or the ALCAT. These are IgG test (typically blood-spot tests where you prick your finger and put a spot of blood on a piece of paper) because I see this even being recommended by some respected health professionals.
But there’s a huge problem with IgG tests…
These tests are kind of like if you were at the mall and you wanted to know how many people were shopping in the mall…
The quick and easy way to get an answer (albeit the wrong answer) is to go in the parking lot and count how many cars there are in the parking lot of the mall to see how many people were shopping inside. Counting the cars would be a problem because you don’t know a how many people are actually working at the mall who should not be counted as shoppers (because they’re employees). You also don’t know how many shoppers came in each car. Maybe you have a big car and only one person came in that car, maybe you have another car where five people fit. So you see how it’s the improper way to look at the problem. The best way would be to up to the mall and count every shopper who’s coming in and count the ones leaving.
That’s how I look at these IgG blood tests. They can identify some components of inflammation, but certainly not all and that leaves us with a spotty picture of what’s going on (which is more confusing than anything else). The IgG test is used by a lot of companies (Everlywell and ALCAT are just two of the brand names) but there are many more out there who use the same exact IgG tests with a different brand name and advertising.
I’m not a fan at all of the IgG test because the provide false positives. Just because you ate avocado yesterday, avocado can show up high on your test. I like to call it an expensive food diary. Not so much fun—that’s not exactly what we’re looking for when it comes to a test.
There are DNA-style tests (genomic tests) like 23andMe which is the cheek swab. Some of the companies will boast that they can help identify foods that you should be eating according to your DNA. I absolutely don’t find any benefit in that as far as IBS goes. While I use genomic testing myself for long-term “wellness” clients, I find it useful for disease prevention and optimal wellness.
Hair samples…saliva samples…a lot of these are the same story…I don’t find the results to be accurate and I also don’t find them to be
very useful in applying them to creating a diet for IBS.
Food allergy tests are completely different. This is something that your doctor can order for you. Insurance covers it which is nice, but
I don’t find many IBS clients have food allergies which care causing their IBS symptoms. To be clear, this is an IgE test (not to be confused with IgG). The IgE is an allergy test and that measures a true allergy—similar to an anaphylactic reaction. It’s not always that severe, but I don’t find avoiding foods that come up on these tests to correlate with a reduction in IBS symptoms. Also, there’s a skin prick test for allergies, but I see a lot of false positives with that one as well.
My Favorite Test and Why it can also be Useless!
Now, there’s even a problem with the best food sensitivity test out there. Even the best test requires an expert to apply the results. It’s not straightforward. You would think, “Okay, I got the results…I can’t eat apples, avocados, and chicken…” but there’s so much more to it than that!! For that reason, it’s deceiving. A lot of people will take their results and say, “Okay great…I’m on my own now and you know, I’ll figure this out…” I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of a case where they’ve had a significant improvement in their symptoms doing it that way.
Somebody with experience will take into account your previous diet before the test and wean you into a diet that is going to be calming for your body.
- Food chemicals: besides just having whichever foods are tested, there are chemicals in these foods… just because a food might not come up as “bad”.Let’s take white potatoes, for example. You might be reactive to solanine in those potatoes. There’s a lot of wires behind the scenes that can get crossed, or might not stand out to somebody who’s not familiar with them.
- Timing on adding new foods: it’s not as easy as, “Okay take these foods out for a couple weeks and then add them back in and see how you do.” Certain foods might need to stay out of your diet for much longer than others.
- Combining specific foods: there’s an accumulative effect. For example, if you have a lot of foods that are “fair” for you, maybe
they’re not the absolute “best” foods, but they’re still okay…if you have too many of those foods in one meal or in one day, it can provoke a symptom as if you were eating a food that was really bad for you.
- Avoiding “bad” foods that might show up on your test can cause more strain on your digestive system. You might be thinking, “How is that possible?”, but if you take out the foods that come up as “bad” on your food test, then you have to replace those foods with something else and that substitution can strain your digestive system big time.
- Have you ever had a time where you had too much fat, or fiber, or even meat? Some people could be sensitive to all those things if they’re in the wrong quantities (or timing). Your digestive system will be overburdened and then you can have IBS symptoms that way. So maybe you’re still eating foods that are “safe”, or avoiding the really bad foods, but you might be eating too much of certain foods that your digestive system is not ready for…more on that in a little bit.
- Test results are time sensitive: YIKES! I’ll have people come to me and say, “Hey, I actually got this test done a year ago and I really want to apply it, but I’m not sure how.”—It’s too late! Ugh, I hate that, but it’s too late because your body shifts and your sensitivities shift over time. If it’s more than one or two months out, it’s possible that the results have changed a little bit. That’s why I’ll only use this test if I know we can start putting a plan together within the first month.
- Your diet can become overly restrictive. If you have such a strict diet for a while, you might be restricting it too much to the point where you’re going to deplete the nutrients in your body and that’s going to stress out your body as well. We want to be sure your diet is well-rounded in all the nutrients to properly support your body. Just creating a diet based off of a test is not enough to be sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need for your other systems in your body to work well.
So even if you did have the best food sensitivity test done, if you don’t have an expert to help you apply the results, it’s likely that you’re going to fall short and not get the results that you truly deserve.
The (best) test is truly just a starting point
It’s just one piece of the puzzle. You need somebody to help you decode it and to help navigate your own body with the symptoms that you’re
experiencing (I hope you’re following me because I know this is a lot of information I’m throwing at you.)
- Let’s say your food sensitivity test said that you’re “safe” with grapes…but grape wine vinegars might trigger you due to having a high tyramine content, or even from high pesticide content.
- Now, carrots might be a safe food also but the fiber content might throw off your bowels (whether you have constipation OR diarrhea) and
the quantity will make a difference too.
- Chicken might be a safe food for you but if it’s prepared a certain way (cold cuts, cutlets, wings), it can cause bloating and gas, constipation or diarrhea.
- Oats for example, might be a safe food but if you’re also reactive to wheat you’ll need to use gluten-free oats only.
- The green tops of scallions might be fine but the white part on the bottom might make you gassy.
- Frozen mango might be better tolerated than fresh mango.
…All these nuances exist for virtually every “safe” food on a food sensitivity test.
Getting to the root cause is what is going to help you feel better all around. I’m a huge fan of getting to the root cause in order to help support your body.
IBS is a sign that your immune system & digestive system are overworked
Certain triggers weaken your gut over time, and that signals your immune system to be on high alert. Next, your immune system overreacts to certain foods, causing inflammation. So if you used to tolerate chicken,now because your gut has been weakened, your immune system is now overreacting to ch
icken and every time you eat chicken, it’s causing inflammation. Your gut was already in bad shape and now, because of your immune system being overworked, your immune system is causing this inflammation which is, in turn attacking and wearing down your gut even more.
So now, more parts of your digestive system have been affected by this unruly inflammation.
It’s a vicious cycle, and it happens basically at every meal. Think of all the foods we eat in a day…some of these foods, that I can almost guarantee you’re eating on a daily basis are ones that your body is not happy with. It’s hard to pinpoint the problematic food when you feel lousy all of the time and then you feel a little more lousy when you eat chicken. It’s hard to tell how lousy you actually feet before the chicken. When you start to feel great, then you can clearly see which foods are bothering you.
Picture the systems in our body: our immune system, our digestive system, our cardiovascular system, our endocrine system…all these need to be working properly for us to wake up and spring out of bed, full of energy, have satisfying bowel movements, and smile at ourselves when we look in the mirror.
These systems work together like the tires on your car. Let’s say the front left tire is flat. We know we need to replace it, but if we replace the front tire by swapping it with one of the back tires, we’re still going to have a flat tire on the car and the ride is still going to be bumpy and slow. The same thing often happens with generic elimination diets and food sensitivity tests. If you change, remove, or add in foods or supplements to fix one system, it’s often at the expense of making another system worse. By addressing both your immune system and your digestive system– actually taking the time to get your tires replaced–we can see major changes and healing and have a smooth ride.
The plan: The IBS Solution…
This is my program to address every component of IBS. We start with the immune system. that’s the first key…we start with an accurate and useful food sensitivity test–the MRT: Mediator Release Test. This test measures your white blood cells before and after they’ve been introduced to a specific food or chemical, and then they see how much the white blood cell shrinks. The more it shrinks, the angrier your immune system is.
Think of a bag of ammunition. You’ve got a whole bag of ammunition to use for protection, if needed. If at the end of the day, you still have a full bag of ammunition, that means that the food essentially didn’t bother you. But if the ammunition is being used up throughout the day, that’s because your body is firing off at these foods. If at the end of the day you only have a couple of bullets left over, it’s because your body’s been fighting all day long
and that is a major contributor to your symptoms.
The MRT it doesn’t test specific types of ammunition (bullets vs arrows), it measures everything that’s been used up all together (10 pieces have been fired) and I find that to be completely sufficient.
We address the immune system by having an accurate and useful food sensitivity test which is the MRT. We also address the digestive system. We start with safer foods. We interpret these test results. We combine them with your symptoms
, your current diet, and the foods your body and immune system is happy with, and foods that are easier for you to digest. Then we come up with a plan for you to stick to short term. We listen to your symptoms–we don’t mask them. We’re trying to see everything that you feel and everything that you’re noticing. We check on these symptoms
on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Then, while listening to your symptoms, we tweak our plan, and we repeat.
We are constantly changing our plan, widening the variety of foods, and combining other pieces of your lifestyle in order to chase those symptoms and drive them into the ground. The other systems in your body are going to respond to these changes that we’re making (By the way—notice how I keep saying “we”? Yes, WE work as a team together!)
In short, the game plan is constantly evolving. I’ve never made a plan for somebody all up front for three months and it pan out. It doesn’t work that way. We’re changing the plan every couple of weeks because we need to pivot and make sure that we are working with your body. The whole time your body will start working in a different way (which is so cool!)
The best plan is a flexible one that’s tailored to you. If anyone were to just spit out a plan and say, “Okay, this
is your plan, talk to me in three months”, I would run away because it is not tailored and it is not flexible.
>>I’m adding in some reviews from past clients at the very end, because these are people who wanted to help other people like you.<<
Now, The IBS Solution program has the potential to completely turn around your IBS troubles. I could charge as much as $20,000 for the work I do, but the program is just a fraction of that. Don’t get me wrong, it is an investment…it’s for people who are serious about taking charge of their symptoms and willing to prepare their own food. While we often see improvements quickly, it’s not a quick fix and it takes some time to get your entire system working at its best.
So just to put it out there–this program is not for people who are afraid of needles and blood draws or who are very very picky eaters already
due to personal preferences, or for people who cannot find a way to prepare their own food.
Click the button to “GET STARTED” to see how to use the MRT for IBS with the help of yours truly– a dietitian who will guide you to
getting the results you’ve been craving.
Take the next step in your journey to alleviate your IBS symptoms.
- Thoroughly review your health history
- Examine things you have tried (or not tried) in the past
- Lay out the best course of action, uniquely tailored to you